Exodus 20:1-17                                “Laws”


In Alabama, it is illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church

In Rehoboth, Delaware, it is illegal to whisper in church

In Maine, shotguns must be taken to church in the event of a Native American attack

In Boston, Massachusetts, it is against the law to eat peanuts while in church

In Mississippi, private citizens may arrest anyone who disturbs a church service

In Omaha, Nebraska, it’s illegal to sneeze or burp during a church service

In New York City, it is illegal to fart in church with the intention of causing a disturbance

In North Carolina, it is illegal to have sex in a churchyard

In Ohio, it is against the law to kill a housefly within 160 feet of a church without a license

In Texas, it is illegal to go to church in disguise

In Nicholas County, West Virginia, no clergy members may tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit during church services


            All of these silly church laws came from an article in the Huffington Post. I mention this because there is a law against plagiarism! I have to always quote my sources.

            As we look at the Old Testament, we also see a lot of laws that may have us a bit confused and asking, “Why would that be a law?” There is a whole book of the Bible that is nothing but laws. That is the book of Leviticus. Look at Leviticus 19:19, for instance, for why I tend never to preach from Leviticus: “You shall not let your animal breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two different kinds of seed. Nor shall you wear a garment of two different materials.” I call this the law against wearing polyester!

            What about the Ten Commandments? We read them this morning. Did you notice anything while hearing them again? We have the three-day holiday weekend coming up that is called Presidents’ Day, but it is technically the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and George Washington’s birthday that are close together. (The 12th and the 22nd of February). Abraham Lincoln had a bit of a problem with the Ten Commandments as they seem to condone slavery. Slavery is mentioned twice in the text we read, it is not forbidden apparently. In the South of the United States prior to 1865, the end of the Civil War, many slave owners used these Ten Commandments to justify the owning of another human being. According to the Fourth Commandment, all you have to do is make sure your slave has Sunday off. And in antebellum South, the slaves did get Sunday off! Now after the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution which outlawed slavery, everybody gets to work on Sunday!!


            In our second reading today, we have this one line that I would like to expand in consideration, please. Jesus in Matthew 5:17-20 that he is the “fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.” He says that he did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. In the Greek, one can read this in two different ways. I am not going to argue with the translation of the word “plyrosai” in the Greek. “Fulfillment” is the right translation into English. The problem comes from the linear time that English uses exclusively. Both Greek and Hebrew allow for three dimensional time. So, we should not just see time on this planet as a line, a “timeline,” but as a cup that can be filled, and then “filled full” by the appearance of God on earth in the person of Jesus.

            Let me give you an example of how time is filled to fullness. Let us say that you are sitting in a restaurant in Germany. You order a beer. At the same time you order your meal. Remember that in Germany the beer is from tap, and served at room temperature. You look over at the waiter filling the glass of beer at the tap. The glass is a quarter full with liquid and the rest is foam coming out the top. The waiter knocks some of the foam off the top and goes about his business. After a few minutes he comes back and adds more beer to the glass, knocks more foam off, and goes about his business again.

            Finally, the waiter brings your dinner from the kitchen. He goes back to check your glass of beer. He adds one more shot of liquid to the glass, knocks off the foam, and brings it to you just as you start eating your meal. Compare that to America where when you order a beer it comes ice cold with no head at all–and usually very little flavor either. Likewise, when it comes to the Law, Jesus is serving it with the correct flavor and putting the proper head on it. And, yes, we have been waiting for this a long time. That does not matter, it is the proper head on a beer.


            How exactly does Jesus top off the Law? How does he put a proper head on it? In all of the Gospels we hear Jesus give us what has become known now as “The Great Commandment of Jesus Christ.” We even celebrate the day when Jesus gave us this great commandment–this one overarching law of laws. We call it the “Day of the Commandment.” In Latin, the language that was used to first introduce Christianity to the Britians “Mandatum” is “Commandment.” Today we say “Maundy Thursday.” This is the day of the Passover, or the “Last Supper” of Jesus. Jesus is breaking the bread and serving the wine, his body and blood for the sacrifice that is the redemption of humankind, and literally the last thing he says are these words: “I command you to love–this is the fulfillment of God’s Law.” Yup, love God, and love your neighbor as yourself and all those other laws will be covered–topped off, fulfilled, just the right amount of foamy flavor!

            If we look at the first part of the Ten Commandments, if we love God, then of course we are not going to build idols to other gods, misuse God’s name, or not remember the Sabbath in order to honor God.

            If we love others, even unto our neighbors, then of course we will honor our parents, not commit adultery against our spouse, not murder, not covet, not lie in false witness, and not steal. So, it is just like that Beatles song: “Love is all you need!” That is from the “Yellow Submarine” album. Believe you me, if you all live on a Yellow Submarine and are a rock and roll band, you better have a lot of love!


            That being said, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are now challenged more so than any others because we are not just living by a civil code that tells us we should be punished if we do this or that, but by a moral code that is based on a completely different premise. This new premise is that “God so loved the world. . . .” John 3:16. WE could be punished. WE are all sinners and deserving of punishment, but God “so loved the world” that God took that punishment upon God’s self in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And, because Jesus loved us first, we are able to love others rather than judge them and condemn them.

            Last week I spoke about the priesthood and Jesus. The high priests in the temple were never told that they had to love because they were loved by God. They were never told that they had to love on the worshippers that came to the temple. They were never told that they had to love even to the point of loving their enemies. And, how different the story of the Gospel would be if in fact the priests in the temple could have loved on Jesus as all of his followers did! Instead of having to sacrifice on the cross, Jesus would be allowed to come and preach on the Sabbath and heal the sick, and give the hope of eternal salvation without all the other intrigues and machinations of that crooked and corrupt priesthood in the Temple.

            Reality check, we live in a world filled with hatred. When God came into the world, in the person of Jesus, God was met with hatred. God knew that was going to happen. God knew that the only way to defeat the hatred was by divine love. And so, the new law we receive from Jesus is that we love because we were first loved by God. That is the new moral law we enjoy through the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus Christ,